Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ambiguous Christianity

What is it that sets apart Christians from people who are kind, generous, and generally “nice” yet are not believers? These days, it’s getting harder and harder to tell. At times there appears to be no difference at all between the two groups of people. Yes, there are many things that God calls Christians to do and be- to forgive, to be kind, to serve others, to love- that many unbelievers also do and are. The difference is from whence these values and lifestyle traits stem. In the case of a Christian, these traits are rooted in our love for Christ, and when we promote these values and habits we should present them as elements of the gospel of Christ. As followers of Christ, our relationship with God should be not only the focus of our existence, but also the definition of who we are. To teach and encourage love, kindness, mercy, and so on without acknowledging Christ as the source would be akin to lauding the groundbreaking studies of a scientist without ever giving credit to the scientist himself. Unfortunately, that is exactly what many of we Christians are doing. In an effort to make Christianity appear more accessible (apparently Christ’s life was not enough of a testimony to the fact that God’s love encompasses all and bears no prejudice or divisions), many Christian individuals, organizations, and churches have begun presenting biblical truths in a watered-down, non-confrontational manner. I assume this is in effort to avoid having the gospel of Christ perceived as controversial or offensive to any member of today’s tolerance-obsessed society. As society has become more and more about acceptance and nondiscrimination and free love, so has the Christianity many people are presenting to the world. The result is a severe blurring of the lines between Christians and the rest of the world.

I believe this trend is something we as the body of Christ must work to change. This ambiguity in the presentation of the Gospel and its truths is a tragedy because it is essentially a removal of Jesus Christ from Christianity, and that makes it no Christianity at all. Jesus did not mince words when He was proclaiming His Father’s truth, and I don’t believe we should either. It is clear from His example that it is possible to be compassionate and merciful without dulling the double-edged sword that is the word of God. What is it that makes modern-day Christians think they need to package the word of God in spiritual bubble-wrap in order for nonbelievers to accept it? The Gospel is not something that we are to accept with ease, and then continue on with our lives. No, it is a collection of truths that should turn one’s world upside down, make him question his life thus far, throw him into a state of wonder and awe, and transform him entirely. The world is not a comfortable place for the Gospel. This world was crafted by the Creator and then invaded by evil. Naturally, a world that relishes living under a deceitful tyrant is not going to want to hear news of the rightful King. We would do well to take a look at the reactions of the people who were the first to hear of God’s plan for salvation. Many of them did not initially embrace the message of Christ. There was much to wrestle with- the convicting nature of laying aside pride to admit one’s sinfulness and inability to escape such a desperate state without help- and wrestle they did, until finally they heeded His call.

This is not to say that we should take Jonathan Edwards approach and preach fire and brimstone to every nonbeliever we come in contact with. Nor is it to speak negatively the these elements of Christianity so often adopted by nonbelievers whenever society deems them trendy or politically correct- things such as love, kindness, service to others, peace, and such. Rather, I believe that we as Christians must be bolder about proclaiming Christ’s message in its entirety, without leaving out the more controversial, less-PC aspects (such as Christ Himself). It is possible to present the Gospel, including its most convicting and confrontational parts, without sacrificing any of the love, mercy, or compassion that God calls us to. To proclaim the Good News in this manner would be to follow the blueprint of Christ’s own life on earth. God’s love is a “come as you are” offer to everyone, but He does not intend to let those who come stay as they are. Therefore an insipid call to embrace a lifestyle of “love” and “peace” and other such nice things is worthless if it does not include a call to be transformed by the power of Christ and live in the reality of God’s kingdom.

If we stopped spouting a watered-down, fluffed-up theology and put Christ back at the center of modern Christianity, it’s true that more people would reject the Gospel than do now. Our worries in fulfilling the Great Commission should not be how many people we “win” for Christ, because the fact is that we are incapable of doing that. It is our call to preach the Gospel (and it is only truly the Gospel if we acknowledge Christ as being at the core of every good thing that stems from it- love, grace, selflessness, etc.), but only God can change His children’s hearts. One could go about his whole life proclaiming Christ as Savior and living a life that is a testimony to the goodness of God, without anyone ever accepting Christ as King because of his words or his work, and I believe that when God greeted him at heaven’s gates, that man would hear a hearty “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” We sow the seeds, and God does the reaping. We mustn’t be anxious about the divisive nature of the Gospel but rather embrace that aspect of it, and proclaim it with hearts overflowing with sincere, Christ-like love and compassion. We should concern ourselves with presenting to the world the authentic gospel of Christ. The rest we humbly leave to God.

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